Redefining the Value of Business Schools in Global Society
Over the last several decades, business schools have become the fastest and most successful segment of higher education. Business education is now a truly global enterprise and one that, I firmly and passionately believe, offers important lessons and inspirations for higher education as a whole. Business schools are not perfect, but they have encountered and often overcome many of the challenges now facing institutions and leaders in higher education, supported by organizations like AACSB International.
I am honored to chair the board of directors at AACSB, the oldest business accreditation agency in the world, which only celebrated its centennial this year: 100 years is a short space of time in the span of human history. Nevertheless, the occasion provides an opportunity to rethink the function of business schools in global society, given the importance that management plays in any profession or activity.
In other insights on global business education, I have referred to the important work developed by AACSB’s Committee on Issues of Management Education (CIME), as well as the dynamic new strategic drive implemented by Tom Robinson since his appointment as president and CEO of AACSB over a year ago.
Aware of the challenges that business school deans and managers face, during my mandate as chair of the AACSB board, I propose giving priority to the following goals:
1. A More International Membership
It is conceivable, possible, and desirable for AACSB to grow by accrediting the best schools across a range of continents, creating a better balance in terms of members’ geographic diversity.
But AACSB is more than just a business school accreditation agency. It is also the benchmark in teaching quality, beyond the standards applied in the accreditation process, and can promote initiatives to improve quality, such as professional development events and the diffusion of best practices.
Furthermore, higher education has become a global industry in which very few institutions have the resources to run their activities on an international scale without establishing alliances with foreign institutions. International partnerships have evolved from simple student exchange agreements to joint degree programs and sophisticated collaboration.
AACSB can play an important role in creating alliances between schools in different parts of the globe. In fact, one of the aspects of the organization most valued by its members is precisely the networking opportunities that come from belonging to AACSB.
2. Greater Diversity in Management
Increasing the percentage of women at the highest levels of the business world is a task we have yet to fully commit to. Aside from the economic benefits this will provide, equality is a simple matter of justice.
Diversity means different things, depending on the culture in question, and a great global presence will give AACSB the opportunity to share best practices related to diversity and inclusion. Additionally, diversity goes beyond gender and should embrace other important issues: cultural and ethnic diversity; cross-generational diversity; and, of course, the diversity that results from having different visions of the world and of quality of life.
3. Information and Knowledge Sharing
AACSB has the largest database on management education in the world and thus the ability to play a vital role in disseminating information about the knowledge and specialist skills that each of its members has accrued.
To conclude, I would argue that rather than a period of maturity, business education finds itself in the midst of deep-rooted change and widespread disruption. There are many ways in which our environment can develop and evolve, in which new ideas can be generated, along with the appearance of new areas of growth and new models to teach tomorrow’s leaders. In this context, AACSB is open to new ways of generating value in business schools.
Inevitably, there is a certain amount of standardization involved in accreditation, but there is no room within AACSB for a one-size-fits-all approach. As such, it is now up to AACSB’s members to reject standard recipes and create innovative new products, services, and, most important, strategies. We must identify new paths, as yet uncharted, along which to help the business leaders of the future find their way.